Friday, March 27, 2009

I wish I was a man

Not me, I like being a woman. But, that was what a young woman said at women's Bible study last night. The woman's Bible study that I attend at my church started a new session last night. Since it was a large group of about 40 women who did not all know each other we started with an "icebreaker" activity where we each picked a question to answer about ourselves from a bag. The questions asked things like "Are you a morning or a night person?", "If you were ice cream, what flavor would you be and why?" and "What three words would you use to describe yourself?".

A college-aged woman a few seats to my right chose the question, "If you could be anyone else, who would you be and why?". She answered, "For one day, I wish I was a man. Just so I would not have to plan anything or worry about how I look. I could just sit back and chill." This was met with some laughter and a few raised eyebrows. I leaned toward the 30ish woman to my left, who I had met earlier in the evening and said "I bet a lot of men wish they could just sit back and chill too." She replied, "Yeah, my husband would agree."

The study is a video series/workbook type of study, with small group discussions, based on the book of Esther. The teacher said, as one of the few books of the Bible with a female protagonist, that a study of Esther was a great opportunity for women to examine our "issues". She did a survey that asked women about the most common issues they dealt with, and the top 3 were, yielding to/submitting to authority including their husbands, balancing competing demands, and estrogen. She also said that we would discuss and deal with these issues without devaluing or tearing down men.

There are about 40 of us in the study, ranging in age from late teens to 70's, married and single, with children and without, stay at home moms and working women. It dawned on me that this study is going to be an interesting opportunity to hear what many different women have to say on these subjects. Given the human propensity to assume that others think or feel in similar ways to the ways we think or feel, I am very curious to see if I will be surprised. Will my optimism take a beating? We'll see....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Alternate title: A tale of two cleavages

This week I had what we call practical, or simulation examinations in one of my courses. It's where I have a simulated patient (someone who pretends to have a certain diagnosis) that the students have to perform some clinical skill with. Included in the scoring of the exam are elements such as the performance of the actual clinical skill(s), how well the student explains what they are doing to their "patient", and if they adhere to a professional dress code, among others.

The dress code includes basic rules such as no torn, dirty, or excessively wrinkled clothing, no jeans, no shorts, and no skirts or dresses shorter than 2 inches above the knee as well as what we call the "4 B's". The 4 B's stand for bellies, backs, butts, and boobs, or the parts of the body that we require remain covered by clothing, including while the student is reaching both arms overhead, bending over, or leaning forward. If it seems odd to you that we have to actually tell students that exposing their bellies, backs, butts, and boobs is inappropriate, you are probably old like me :p

We try to deal with dress code issues as a part of this exam because our male faculty are not comfortable commenting on the dress of our female students (we don't have dress code violations with male students, well, except once a male student wore a t-shirt with a mostly nude woman on it from one of the ubiquitous strip clubs found in college towns). So, it falls to the female faculty to address. It's not exactly my favorite thing to do either, but I understand how the already sensitive subject could be even more difficult for a male to approach with a female student.

I had three incidences of dress code violation this time. One occurred when a student raised her arms overhead and exposed about 2 inches of "belly" between the bottom of her shirt and the top of her low rise pants, and the other two involved "boobs".

I got very different reactions from the students regarding the "boob" incidences. The first student, a young woman who is quite well endowed, didn't have a dress code violation during the exam, but I wanted to, um, congratulate her on her efforts toward that end, and encourage her to continue.

Learner: You did a great job with the dress code today. It was a good idea to wear that tank top with a higher neck line under your top.

Student 1: Yeah, I wanted to make sure I was covered.

Learner: Good. There are some times you don't do as well with the dress code though.

Student 1: I know, it's not easy for me (said with chagrin).

Learner: I understand that it isn't really fair in some ways because there are a lot of tops the other girls in your class could wear without it being an issue, that if you wore would not work. I mean, you have the boobs you have, you need to find some ways to deal with it. Trust me, you won't want to be showing that much cleavage in a clinical setting. Your tank top/camisole thingy worked well for you today, that seems to be a good option for you.

Student 1: Thank you, I'll have to get some more. I know what you mean, when I did my (clinical rotation) some patients made some comments.

Learner: Oh, that's not good.

Student 1: I know, I don't want that to be the focus. I know I need to do better and I will.

Learner: Good

The other student, who is more average sized, was wearing a top that was so low cut that even when she was standing up straight you could see way too much cleavage and when she bent forward you could clearly see her bra. She also has a tendency to dress like she is going out to a club instead of class, so I needed to address the dress code in general with her as well.

Learner: There's a problem with your top (I put my hand on my sweater to indicate the neckline)

Student 2: I thought this was a nice top.

Learner: It's too low cut. When you bent forward I could see your bra.

Student 2: I have a tank top on underneath.

Learner: Well, I couldn't see the tank top, I saw your bra.

Student 2: [eye roll]

Learner: A tank top underneath is a good idea, but the neckline needs to be higher than the neckline of the top to help.

Student 2: Yeah, okay [arms crossed]

Learner: It has also been noticed that you are pushing the limits of the dress code in class.

Student 2: [another eye roll]

Learner: Some of your shirts seem better suited to a club than a class room or clinic, like that off the shoulder top you had on last week.

Student 2: Okay [looking away from me]

Learner: It's important to project a competent professional image to your patients.

Student 2: I know.

I got the impression that she thinks I am over reacting and that it is just a matter of changing styles, not professionalism or appropriate modesty. I have a feeling she is going to complain about me. Oh well. It won't be the first time.

* I debated about whether or not to title this post "Boobs", but then I started to wonder... what would happen if I did? Would I get more hits? ( I need to get over this "everything is an experiment" way of thinking.) I feel a little cheap...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Accepting criticism

The topic of criticism has been coming up frequently of late. Personally for me, the process of a dissertation is rife with criticism and it's outcome is dependent on what you do with the criticism you receive. It also seems that a lot of the discussions about issues involving men, women, and feminism are also influenced by the giving and receiving of criticism.

Today I came across a great article about both giving and receiving criticism (via Radical Womanhood), The Cross and Criticism, by Alfred J. Poirier.

If I know myself as crucified with Christ, I can now receive another's criticism with this attitude: "You have not discovered a fraction of my guilt. Christ has said more about my sin, my failings, my rebellion and my foolishness than any man can lay against me. I thank you for your corrections. They are a blessing and a kindness to me. For even when they are wrong or misplaced, they remind me of my true faults and sins for which my Lord and Savior paid dearly when He went to the cross for me. I want to hear where your criticisms are valid."

The correction and advice that we hear are sent by our heavenly Father. They are His corrections, rebukes, warnings, and scoldings. His reminders are meant to humble me, to weed out the root of pride and replace it with a heart and lifestyle of growing wisdom, understanding, goodness, and truth. For example, if you can take criticism—however just or unjust—you'll learn to give it with gracious intent and constructive results...

I do not fear man's criticism for I have already agreed with God's criticism. And I do not look ultimately for man's approval for I have gained by grace God's approval. In fact, His love for me helps me to hear correction and criticism as a kindness, oil on my head, from my Father who loves me and says, "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as a son" (Heb. 12:5-6).

This was just what I needed to hear today. I hope you find it as beneficial as I did.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's all about me

The very same day that my niece was adopted, an anonymous guest blogger over at Shakesville, that oasis of rational thought in a sea of patriarchy (yeah, right), posted on the same subject as I recently did, adoption and abortion. As you might guess, this anonymous blogger (I'll call her AB for short) had a different take on the subject than I did, but perhaps not in exactly the way you might expect. You see, AB has had an abortion and has given a child up for adoption.

She does make a point worthy of consideration, at least from my point of view. She contends that after giving a child up for adoption that a woman may experience some depression or other emotional maladjustment and may be in need of help to get through the experience of loss and that help is not readily available (at least in a manner that she finds acceptable). It is understandable that there would be some feelings of loss associated with giving a child up for adoption. And if she is correct that help is not readily available I would concur that this is something that should be addressed.

However, AB goes on to make several points that completely miss the obvious heart of the issue.

I have given a baby up for adoption, and I have had an abortion, and while anecdotes are not evidence, I can assert that abortions may or may not cause depression - it certainly did not in me, apart from briefly mourning the path not taken - but adoption? That is an entirely different matter. I don't doubt that there are women who were fine after adoption, and there is emphatically nothing wrong with that or with them; but I want to point out that if we're going to have a seemingly neverending discussion about the sorrow and remorse caused by abortion, then it is about goddamn time that we hear from birth mothers too.

Believe me when I say that of the two choices, it was adoption that nearly destroyed me - and it never ends. The only comparison I have is the death of a loved one. The pain retreats, maybe fades, but it comes right back if I poke at it. Writing this has taken me nearly two weeks. Normally, I can write this amount in about thirty minutes, with bathroom breaks. I started to type, and stopped only to reread, then go wail into my pillow. There is no such thing as "over" with this.

So, AB was far more depressed after giving her child up for adoption than she was after killing her child. First of all, NEWS FLASH: IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU! You were more depressed, but YOUR CHILD WAS ALIVE. I find it ironic in a truly sick way that she says that the only comparison to her emotional pain that she can make is the death of a loved one. Hello! Earth to AB, when you killed your child through abortion there actually was a death And while there is "no such thing as over" with AB's sense of pain and loss after allowing her child to live, when she aborted her other child, life was "over" for that baby.

I freely admit that I don't know what adoptees go through, so I'm going to let others do the talking on that topic (I really hope you do; I only know my side, and I fret and worry and freak out about my child). Again, though, you never see pro-lifers worrying about anything besides forcing a birth. I never see pro-lifers doing anything constructive about adoptees of any age.

AB frets and worries about the child she gave up for adoption, but has no grief for the child she killed. What? And excuse we pro-lifers of the world who worry about something as nonconstructive as life.

But wait, she's not done yet.

And when MRAs aren't busily whining about losing their children in a custody battle, they're whining about how they should have some say in whether a woman is allowed to get an abortion, even when they don't want the child and want it put up for adoption. I can't even imagine the psychological ramifications of being forced into adoption, when it's indescribably hard after a decision made of one's free will.

The psychological ramifications of being forced to let your child live? How about the psychological ramifications of the father who is helpless in the face of you choosing to kill his child? How about the physiological ramifications for the child who is killed in an abortion?

As Male Samizdat said in the comments to my previous post on abortion and adoption: Typical feminist thinking. "It's all about me."

More signs...

...of Spring.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Responsibility and choices

Last year a student came and told me she was pregnant and had an appointment to have an abortion, but that she was reconsidering her decision. As I tried to talk her out of the abortion, I silently implored God that He would give me the words to say. I am very sad to say that it now appears that she did have the abortion.

One of the things she said during our conversation kept going through my mind today. When I suggested that she consider giving the baby up for adoption, she said, "oh, I would never do something so irresponsible." After I managed to pick my jaw up off of the floor I asked her what she meant. She said, "If I'm not going to raise the child myself I won't have it, that would be irresponsible." I told her I didn't think that was irresponsible at all, but rather that it was a gift to the child and the adoptive parents. She said, "Oh, I know. I just want to take care of my problems myself. " I was stunned into silence at this "logic". I mean, what the freak is that about?

This conversation was on my mind, because today, my sister and brother-in-law legally adopted my niece. It was a very, very happy day for my family. I am so thankful that my niece's birth mother didn't think of her as a problem to be taken care of, because she is a gift to my family to be certain.

Welcome to the family, Peanut!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Father and daughter bonding

A conversation with my father on the occasion of my birthday.

Learner's Dad: One day you're deciding what color lipstick to wear and before you know it you're 40.

Learner: I'm 43 now Daddy (Yes, I call him Daddy. What of it?)

Learner's Dad: You're 43?

Learner: Yep

Learner's Dad: 43? When are you getting married?

Learner: I don't know. Gotta meet someone before I can marry them.

Learner's Dad: Your mother and I met a guy.

Learner: Oh? Where?

Learner's Dad: One of the home care nurses.

Learner: Oh yeah?

Learner's Dad: Really nice guy...and funny. A bit older than you. You'd like him.

Learner: You think so?

Learner's Dad: Yeah. But, he may be gay or married.

It took my Dad a minute to think that was as funny as I did.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


No, I don't mean the movie Signs, though I love that movie. I mean signs of Spring.

Here are some of the crocus from my parent's front garden. There were also pretty white, yellow, and paler lavender ones but my camera battery chose that moment to die on me so I was unable to take more pictures.

I successfully defended my dissertation proposal yesterday. A big thank you to those of you who were aware that was happening and were praying for me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The gender gap revisited

The student journalist at our student newspaper who addressed the myth of a gender based wage gap appears to have maintained his job though the experience so far. There have also been no published letters to the editor in response. However, there have been a flurry of feminist flavored opinion pieces in the last few weeks ("reproductive rights" are about women's health-yeah, right- and how fans should accept the new female mascot who has traditionally been a male figure with distinctly masculine characteristics).

Today, I had a conversation with one of my female colleagues related to the "wage gap".

Colleague (C): Did you fill out the faculty satisfaction survey?

Learner (L): Not yet. What kinds of questions are on it?

C: About the work environment. They asked if you think you get treated differently because you are a woman. If you get paid less, are respected less, that kind of thing.

L: How did you answer?

C: Well you know we get paid less. (as state employees, anyone can look at the state website and see what our salaries are)

L: Are you sure that is because we're women? There really isn't a valid comparison between us and the guys. We all have different levels of experience and education as well as different job titles.

C: Well A (most recently hired male) does make less than us.

L: I don't think it is a male/female thing.

C: B makes more than us, but what does he do?

L: B is the (administrative title), that's why he makes more. He can have it, I wouldn't want that job.

C: D makes more than us.

L: D finished his PhD and is a higher rank.

C: Okay...... I still think it is discrimination. We'll see what happens when you finish your doctorate.

L: D will still have more experience and a higher rank than me. Those sorts of things really can explain the difference for the most part.

C: ends conversation

So, after my colleague left I had to check out the survey for myself. The invitation email said "The purpose of the survey is to identify factors that contribute to a positive work environment for all faculty. Although the survey is being administered by the Council for Women's Concerns, survey results will be used to inform administration of ALL faculty needs."

After I read that, the language in the survey came as no surprise to me. There were gender neutral questions that read "do you get treated differently because of your gender?" (notice, it is not asking better or worse) and woman specific questions like "are women overly sensitive to workplace discrimination issues?" but no male specific questions. It was not hard to see a feminine bias in the survey. It doesn't seem that the information gained is actually going to serve the needs of all faculty.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Okay, I give up. I have been having an exchange over at MarkyMark's, trying to understand this apparent need for some men to paint all women with a broad brush. But, now that it has devolved to the point that instead of responding to me, people are talking about me, I think it is probably best for me to let it go. My question remains unanswered, which is frustrating for me. I would prefer to continue to try to gain understanding, but if the response is talking about me in the third person rather than addressing what I say, I don't see how understanding can happen. (I would really like to ask in what way I have been hypocritical...if anyone can let me know I would appreciate it)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blue skies

It has been pretty cold here lately, but the sky has also been a beautiful blue. Maybe Spring is not too far away.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm a nerd, what should I do?

That was the question some Swedish person was searching for the answer to. My advice? Roll with it. Embrace your nerdiness.

(click on picture for larger image)

But, I don't have answers to all the searches that lead people here.
(click on picture for larger image...or not since it won't link and I don't know why. The search words read, "gay men have narrow waists and wider hips photos")

So, do gay men have narrow waists and wider hips?